The Food and Agriculture Organization and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development are helping Serbian producers understand and comply with new hygiene laws.

The Serbian government approved hygiene bylaws on food products of plant origin, in line with European legislation, that include flexibility and derogations for traditional food products.

Under this legislation, producers can continue following traditional methods for making and selling products such as fruits, vegetables and fresh herbs, as long as they are safe. It also covers small-scale processing.

FAO and EBRD are preparing guidelines and promotional materials to help producers.

Serbian products include jams, juices, dried fruits, pickled cornichons, the traditional red pepper paste ajvar, and other items using local produce.

Helping small firms compete
Most food businesses in the country are run by families. More than 30,000 farming families grow their own fruits and vegetables but to be competitive domestically and abroad, they need to assure consumers that their produce is safe to eat.

Flexibility measures in the new rules detail specific requirements on the processing of fruits, vegetables and fresh herbs that either are not compulsory for small-scale operators or can be adapted to their conditions. This helps preserve the diversity of products in the country without sacrificing food safety and hygiene.

EBRD and FAO have previously supported the Serbian Government on food safety and quality standards to improve competitiveness in the country’s meat and dairy industries. They have done similar work for Montenegro’s meat sector.

Regulations to improve food safety in the Serbian meat-processing sector came into force in 2018. Guidelines for the sector described hygiene requirements for businesses involved in slaughtering, meat cutting and product processing, in compliance with good manufacturing and hygiene practices, hazard analyses and critical control points (HACCP).

Serbia has been in accession negotiations to join the European Union since January 2014. A European Commission report from mid-2019 found the country was moderately prepared in food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy.

Progress had been made in accreditation of the reference laboratory for milk testing but the country still needed to increase the effectiveness of official controls, improve risk-based approaches at borders and put in place audit inspection staff.

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